Barre, VT – School may be out for the summer, but Barre’s Thunder Road is ready to give some lessons in high-speed excitement this Thursday, June 27 at Community College of Vermont (CCV) Night. The final event of June includes double the action for the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models as they kick their championship battle into high gear.
The Late Model stars have two features on Thursday as they open the night with their 50-lap Casella Waste Systems feature that was rained out two weeks ago. They then turn around quickly for a full round of qualifying and their CCV main event. A good night could kick-start a championship run or be a quick remedy to early-season blues.
For several top runners, the Casella feature is a chance to double down on last week’s success and close on point leader Jason Corliss. Last week’s winner Scott Dragon of Milton, runner-up Marcel J. Gravel of Wolcott, and others who had strong runs this past Friday get two chances on Thursday to gain more ground.
“The key to the first one is just being smart,” Gravel said. “You basically have two nights of racing ahead, and you always want to be smart when you’re out there on the track, but I like to think everybody goes into that first race with the same mentality – let’s keep it caution-free, take what our cars will give us, then go put on a show in the second race…I’ve got a good starting spot, and I really want to go for it, but you also try to keep a level head for the first feature so you don’t ruin your whole season by not even getting to race in the second one.”
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Gravel went on. “As on as (Corliss) has been this year, this is a great opportunity for us to capitalize. I’m going to be cautiously aggressive in that first race, if that makes sense, because you have to go out there and go for the win. That’s just our mentality this year. We’ve been safe and cautious most of my Late Model career, and it’s paid off in some ways, but this year I’m not settling.”
Gravel is part of a large group trying to catch the early top dogs in the division. Barre’s Corliss has surprised no one by sitting atop the overall standings. His consistent excellence, with no finishes outside the top-five so far, has been tough to match. Another hometown driver, Cody Blake, now sits second in points after two straight podium finishes in his own right. Things are tight from third on back, with third-place Kyle Pembroke and eighth-place Gravel separated by just nine points.
Thursday night’s event will also feature full championship action for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Allen Lumber Street Stocks. In the Flying Tigers, a rookie leads the pack after five events. Craftsbury’s Stephen Martin became the youngest champion in track history last year when he captured the Street Stock title. He’s adapted to eight-cylinder cars in a big way and now holds a 19-point edge over two-time champion Jason Woodard of Waterbury Center.
But plenty of other racers have been fast in the Tigers this year and could vault to the top. Former point leader Tyler Austin of E. Calais still sits third overall despite an early incident in last week’s second feature. Nine points divide fourth-place Joe Steffen and eighth-place Kevin Streeter with Kelsea Woodard, Micheal MacAskill, and Brandon Lanphear sandwiched between.
Barre’s Jeffrey Martin continues to expand his lead in the Allen Lumber Street Stock ranks. Martin hasn’t finished worse than fourth in the last four events and not sits a relatively comfortable 34 points ahead of 2014 champion Tommy “Thunder” Smith of Williamstown. Youngsters Kasey Beattie and Kasey Collins remain strong in third and fourth with veterans Dean Switser Jr. and Jamie Davis not far behind.
The Thursday night action at Thunder Road begins at 7:00pm on June 27 with Community College of Vermont Night. Double features for the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models are on the schedules as they start the evening with their 50-lap Casella Waste Systems make-up race. The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Allen Lumber Street Stocks are also in-class. The pits open at 3:30pm and the front gates open at 5:15pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for kids ages 6-12, and $25 for a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids).